There’s no secret that LSU’s Ed Orgeron is one of the most beloved, and yet one of the most scrutinized coaches in the SEC.
Even with the 2019 national championship on his resume, Orgeron is 30-14 (.681) outside of that special season, and has just two Associated Press top 10 finishes.
Add in the off-field problems seen by the program recently, and the fact that Athletic Director Scott Woodward didn’t hire him, Orgeron needs a big season to keep the wolves at bay.
He began that campaign at SEC Media Days, selling the talent and potential of his latest edition of the Bayou Bengals like a man who has one more car to get off the lot in order to make his bonus.
A lot of last season’s disappointment was pinned on the performance of Orgeron’s big name hires, Bo Pelini and Scott Linehan, so changes were made to the staff after one season. Orgeron addressed the youthful additions, and what they bring to rejuvenate the Tigers’ offense, most notably in the area of communication, something the players and coaches struggled with in 2020.
“Our coaches didn’t know this, but when I was interviewing them, I was pretending I was one of our players, and I wanted to see how well they would communicate to our players,” said Orgeron. “Coaches are going to know a lot of football, but it’s how much that they can get to our players and how much our players will know, and every one of these coaches, they were 20 years, average 20 years younger than the coaches I had on the staff. Every one of these coaches made an A-plus in communication with our players.”
After producing one of the worst defenses in recent LSU history, the Tigers are going back to a 4-3 base, in order to take advantage of the athleticism of the roster.
“We decided to go to four-three defense, got our defensive line coming back, two of the best corners in America in Derek and Eli Ricks,” he added. “Got some young safeties, one of the top safeties in the country, two top safeties in recruiting, got two tremendous young linebackers we acquired through the transfer portal. We’re excited about that.”
Orgeron pointed to LSU’s improvement late in the season as a sign of optimism for this year, and a sign that his fractured team began to come together once again.
“Obviously, you come off the 2019 season, you’re feeling good, you had a great season, and all of a sudden, stuff hits,” said Orgeron. “But you know that’s life. You’ve got to be prepared. I think that some of the stuff we were prepared for, some of the we weren’t, but we stuff together. As an administrative staff, as a staff, we fought through it.”
“Something’s going on. Our players believe in each other. I think all those things at the end, we ended up being an ascending program.”
Orgeron did make a huge misstep when asked about the sexual misconduct allegations that the entire athletic program is dealing with. Findings earlier this year showed a pattern of cover-ups and indifference, with allegations directly aimed at the coach.
“That’s something I’m not going to comment on,” he said when asked directly about those issues. “It’s an ongoing investigation, and I’m not going to comment on any of that. Thanks for asking, though.”
No comment on how seriously he takes the matter or how he’s making sure that there will be transparency in how his program and the administration deal with any allegations in the future. No sympathy for the alleged victims, and no condemnation of the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses.
Orgeron was glad to transition back to conversations about his offense. With two “championship caliber” quarterbacks on the roster in redshirt senior Myles Brennan and sophomore Max Johnson, and highly-recruited Garrett Nussmeier, the expectations aren’t to match the record-breaking offense of 2019, but to replicate it in some ways.
“The type of offense we’re going to run, the style of offense of 2019, the type of checks that we had, the type of protections, that’s the stuff I’m talking about now,” he said.
“Whether or not Max, Myles, or Garrett can run it like Joe, I’m not expecting that, but I want to see the same type of plays, I want to see the same type of adjustments that were so successful for us.”
“Now, that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing we’re going to run. But that is going to be the basis of our offense, which is a spread offense, which we learned under Joe Brady.”
The running backs will have to live up to their reported potential. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was as vital to the 2019 championship as anyone, but the Tigers didn’t get close to that production from Tyrion Davis or John Emery last year.
Orgeron is well-versed in handling the cauldron of SEC Media Days, but his true test begins when LSU faces UCLA in six weeks.
We’ll all be watching for the results.